NIFS is a near-infrared integral-field spectrometer that was designed and built by the RSAA for the 8m Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The first incarnation of the instrument was unfortunately lost in the January 2003 bushfires that destroyed much of Mt. Stromlo Observatory. Subsequently, NIFS-2 was rebuilt by AUSPACE Ltd., a local aerospace company, with the assistance of RSAA staff.
NIFS makes use of some of the designs produced by the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii for the Near-Infrared Imager (NIRI) on the Gemini North telescope. NIFS is used with the Gemini facility adaptive optics system, ALTAIR, which corrects the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere and produces image resolutions smaller than 0.1" in size in the near-infrared.
NIFS records a spectrum in the wavelength range from 1 to 2.5 microns for each 0.1"×0.1" piece of a 3.0"×3.0" region of the sky.
By combining the superb image quality of the Gemini telescope and its adaptive optics system with the high spatial and spectral resolution achievable with NIFS, astronomers can study the infrared emission from astronomical objects on scales comparable to those achieved with the Hubble Space Telescope in optical light.